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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 05/16/2014
I ordered a flight of local tap beers in a Minnesota grocery store and it was awesome.
It’s a remarkable statement, actually, considering I can’t buy Summit Oatmeal Stout, Badger Hill High Road, Harriet Island Dark Abbey or Lucid Air in a Minnesota grocery store. But as I sat with my wife and my kids inside Wayzata's Lunds & Byerly's Kitchen, I sampled each of those beers.
The prototype store is pretty interesting: very limited selection but just about everything you’d need to stop in and grab dinner to go. Or dinner to stay, which is the idea of the restaurant at the front of the store. It looks like Delta’s Terminal G at MSP airport with iPads at every table loaded with a touchscreen menu you’re supposed to use to order. The iPads were working, but the transmission was not. So I loaded my “cart” with dinner, customizing my pizza to remove the shallots (the 6-year-old insisted), add an order of sushi rolls (with tuna, salmon, and avocado), cheese plate, and a grass-fed cheeseburger. Then I waited: because a manager told us it wasn’t working. She manually put in our order, and dinner arrived fairly quickly.
So how was it? Well, how are we supposed to judge a grocery store restaurant, even one in a fancy grocery store? Compared to the lunch counter at Costco, Lunds & Byerly’s Kitchen is AMAZING. Compared to the Muni across the street? Frankly if you’re hankering for a burger, I’d go to the Muni across the street. I had the option to order the L&B burger “pink” or “no pink” but it was so thin, my 1/3 pound pink burger wasn’t very pink, nor was it juicy. It also wasn’t seasoned very well. The bacon-beer-onion jam on top of the burger was fantastic—so it seems to me this could be a simple fix.
The centerpiece of the kitchen is a giant, gorgeous brick oven, and it turns out worthy pizza. It’s delicious. We had the balsamic prosciutto pizza ($12)—its crust was crispy, lightly charred, and the tangy chevre cheese, fig jam, and fresh arugula worked perfectly with the prosciutto. It’s worth visiting for the pizza alone.
The sushi roll was a really pleasant surprise. The Kitchen is right around the corner from Sushi Fix, so there’s some solid local sushi in Wayzata. If our roll was any indication, Lunds & Byerly’s is on the right track! Nothing earth-shatteringly creative here, but solid, tasty sushi is a win in my book (and in my 8 year-old’s, who inhaled the entire order and asked me if he could get some more). Sammy ordered the salmon off the kids menu ($9), and it was a large piece of fish, nicely cooked, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Great option for a kids menu: happy parents, happy 6-year-old.
So what’s the deal with this place? I’m not sure! I could see popping in for a beer or glass of wine and a cheese plate for an afternoon power business meeting. Or a quick bite after soccer practice. It was packed on a Monday night. It’s fast, it’s casual, it’s priced competitively, and most of what we ate was pretty solid. I could see this concept killing it in urban areas where a smaller footprint might be desirable in a store. Frankly, the recipe of a solid beer/wine selection plus a solid selection of food for kids is almost always going to be a suburban winner.
If Lunds & Byerly’s replaced whatever generic restaurant is currently in its Maple Grove restaurant with this concept, my family would put it on our rotation of places to visit without hesitation.
Jason DeRusha anchors WCCO-TV’s morning and noon news. His column "DeRusha Eats" appears in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine monthly. See bio
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